Sustainability has become a global trend, both residentially and commercially. Projects and remodels of any size and magnitude are starting to put an emphasis on environmental sustainability.
With that comes certifications from federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and professional associations. Since the field is still new and growing, deciding what the most productive and effective strategy to obtaining these certifications (and if they're worth it at all), may seem overwhelming.
I've compiled some of the most recommended certifications and accreditations through expert interviews, ones that are tangibly beneficial to a building or facility.
Everyone has heard of ENERGY STAR, but what is its value? First and foremost, it's important to note that the primary purpose of ENERGY STAR products, labels and guidance is to reduce the overall carbon footprint. That said, ENERGY STAR's Portfolio Manager is a free, benchmarking tool allowing buildings to be registered, their performance measured and then compared across a spectrum of similar buildings. This is an extremely valuable tool that, sadly, only 47 percent of facilities were utilizing in a 2011 International Facility Management Association (IFMA) survey.
A 2008 CoStar study showed that buildings with ENERGY STAR labels bypassed their "green" peers in occupancy, sale price and rental rates. Given that ENERGY STAR is a free tool, it seems like its utilization can be quite profitable.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
certification for a building or facility can be a costly, but prestigious investment. Because it represents a holistic measuring of six specific areas in facilities, it provides a significant glimpse into the role that building has on not just consumption, but also its make-up, site choice and environment, in terms of occupant health and satisfaction. Daylighting, for instance, is one area that's measured and scored--and it's said that offices with daylighting and views will have employees who are more productive.
Though it can be a costly investment, LEED facilities across the country are demonstrating significant reduction in energy-related costs, that are sometimes linked to simple upgrades and occupant attentiveness.
And the last highly recommended certification to obtain are professional accreditations
for facility managers
. LEED offers its Accredited Professional (AP) certification which carries a sense of notoriety in the building management community. Other nonprofit organizations and professional associations also offer specific certifications for individuals too--IFMA, for example, has its Sustainable Facility Professional accreditation.
Senior Vice President of Demand Reponse, Peter Kelly-Detwiler, says, "Without staying on top of it, a building's performance will wander over time."
These accreditations signify a working knowledge of a building's ins and outs, on all levels of operation and can, therefore, be sure a building will continue to perform optimally after intially gaining certification. without oversight, a building's performance can stray.
Combining facility and professional certifications is becoming a trend in the industry, and with that, comes an overall reduction in energy consumption. With more people sharing common goals in relation to sustainability, we hope to expect our carbon footprint to become smaller and smaller.
Ashley Halligan is a 2007 graduate of Marietta College with a bachelor's in journalism. She's involved in several projects that include freelance travel writing and editing, trip planning and is in the midst of writing a travel memoir.
She's currently a market analyst at Software Advice, an Austin-based advisory firm, and is managing editor of Austin Lifestyle Magazine. She's been ...
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